Best Horror 2008


  1. Stinger839
  2. _kelly

Using the 'by release date' list on Bloody-Disgusting.com then cross-referenced with release dates on imdb (for this list, release year based on when English language version was available to general public as many of these premiered at festivals in 2007), the best of what I saw. NOT ordered as I never do that ranking bullocks. 2008 was a REALLY great year for horror movies.

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  Stinger839's Rating My Rating
1
Eden Log 2008,  R)
Eden Log
first screening: half awake, but still loved it
2
The Midnight Meat Train 2008,  R)
The Midnight Meat Train
First screening: this is a plain thrilling goregasm. Vinnie Jones - or as I know him from Gervais' and Merchant's "Extras", that footballer bloke who just acts hard though Ross Kemp reckons he could definitely beat him up - does a great butcher. He's a naturally mean looking man and a large solid physique that dwarfs his victims and equals one buff and tough wrestler-like guy who ends up as another meal. Jones has the dead stare nailed down! I want to read Clive Barker's original story before I comment on plot elements and the script (as I watched crapfest 'Insanitarium' to get a taste of Jeff Buhler's screenwriting skills, and because this is an adaptation, I can't fairly appraise or praise until I've read the source material. UPDATE 2-11-09: Read the story a while back and just now commenting because I have adjusted the score to 1/2 star less while reviewing my Best Horror 2008 list. The short story is very minimalistic and quite open to adding storylines. I like the dramatic changes done to Mr. Brown (the killer) as I think a badass dude like Vinnie Jones is more effective than a pudgy middle-aged geek type (though really either could work with the right direction). The best thing is that screenwriter Buhler adds a great backstory for the protagonist as a fledgling photographer looking to capture gritty reality and land his first break. And the worst bit, which I've mentioned a bit before, is the ending, not just all the added unnecessary action but how the history of the city (and its elders) is not so clear in the film as compared to the story where it is explained and not just nodded at. I now see what Barker was talking about when it came to fighting to keep this film uncensored, and it's generally fucked that the production and distribution systems clash so much. There's not much holding back on the blood, and gore fans will be in heaven throughout the final reel. I think there were some anticipatory censorship issues with nudity of the corpses on hooks as I saw a few too many unrealistic bodies: obvious simplistic crash dummies next to a more detailed model that had a penis that defied gravity. Still any wide shots of the corpses displayed in rows on the train cars, drawn and hung like cattle, are sickening sublime. The (primary) murder weapon is just plain cool, from finish to design, it's an iconic horror movie weapon. I did dislike how the beginning of the movie has some bits realistic-striving avant-garde stuff but then splats that against action-geared fights; basically, sometimes the film is playing out like a noir with lingering atmospheric shots, then it kicks into action movie mode of quick cutting and I found that conflict of moods was the biggest detriment. The action geared final act just ruins this movie's potential for greatness. I know now that I will watch this movie a few more times, one or two for serious screening, and loads for the sheer fun of it.
3
Let the Right One In 2008,  R)
Let the Right One In
A new classic of vampire film and also a great coming of age drama with stunning cinematography. So many people are recommending this film with good reason. It's tender and genuine, very relationship focused, but the horror shots that are here are super memorable, inventive, and look just as beautiful as other shots in the film. There's nothing that smacks of horror cliche or of a forced plot, and besides one of the main characters being a vampire. this film doesn't really sit right with the bulk of what is presently acceptable as "horror" but feels better in a serious drama or art house genre because it is such a well done and subtle film.
4
Eden Lake 2008,  R)
Eden Lake
The introductory car scene is cinematically identical to Funny Games.

On deciding to confront the kids, "If everyone said that, where would we be?" Leave it to a fuckin Englishman to be so damn... English about it, almost deserves it. Still, with this kind of proactive approach, I'm expecting a fighting couple for a chance.

I've gotta do a hit by hit analysis as I've the browser open; expect many SPOILERS. First mistake was to be sorry about the dog; if he had acted all hard and used it as an opportunity to pound the lead little bastard, they might have stopped out of respect for equally reckless ego-driven violence. And then once they get the car, "I can't see!", right so how about slowing it down a bit; they couldn't catch a slow car on foot right away.

The knifing scene: and my case for keeping guns legal stands strong; I'd rather a few quick trigger happy caps than this kiddie medieval torture shite. And are we just NOW checking our mobile service bars to concoct a clever Blackberry trick? The youngest kid Cooper is the same actor who plays the central character in This is England and he is clearly retreading dramatic territory with this scene which I'm sure the producer was thrilled to have happen.

It's always best to give up your hiding spot the moment your boyfriend yells out to you to run and the mean little kiddies all pause from their torture sesh to peer about.

Okay that is WAY too convenient for the plot to have our fleeing heroine step on a massive spike in the middle of bumfuck nowhere and cry out uncontrollably.

"Can you please just show me the way?" How about can you please just whip out your mobile and call the police?

What happens next...damn that leader kid is FUCKED.

I guess tit for tit... random screwed-overs leads to one decent break in a grotty bin. Of course Cooper gets the "oops"...sympathy scene. Am a bit annoyed at the stereotypical "battle paint" look had from the roll in the bin.

Isn't this the fence scene from Ils? (just before the heroine is "saved" by a passing car)

Wow I don't think ever before in film history has killing a kid been so restorative for the audience.

Though predictable and too clearly contrived in plot, this film is sufficiently fucked up and realistic about it to earn an extra half star.

"Most fucked up" highlight: "Is it warm?" through "I'll burn him instead", and also the ending
5
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer 2008,  R)
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer
The story is about a 3 star (for horror), but the production effects are so great that I HAD to give this four stars.

This is a FUN creature feature with some wicked awesome monsters and an interesting protagonist who is not annoyingly cocky, but instead empathetically emotional. This is a fun get smashed Friday night movie for gore freaks, and it would scare the crap out of a kid or lightweight. I imagine if I saw this before I developed my scare immunities, I wouldn't sleep comfortably for a few days - that's how great the makeup is.

I'm a huge proponent of practical effects, which is probably why I like this movie so much. The first two acts are mostly exposition, and then the concluding twenty-five minutes is all monster fighting. During the fight, Jack does some foolish things like discard his weapons constantly, then when the next monster attacks him, has to struggle to find another makeshift weapon (and this gag is pulled at least three times). I thought compared to earlier outbursts, the actor didn't showcase Jack's rage when it came to fighting the monsters, and it's not just because the monsters dwarf his aggression with their growls. I think the actor was trying to inject some fear into Jack, but it just came off as Jack wasn't in his uncontrollable anger mode.

I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel and hope they don't lapse into using loads of CGI, as the practical makeup/fx was the meat of the movie. I like how bits of the creatures' anatomy mimics the aesthetic of plumbing and pipes, which is Jack's porfession (in particular, their blood looks like dirty pipe sludge).

Also worth mentioning is Robert Englund's performance. He does a great eccentric professor. Once his character is affected by the monster heart, his body language is just astounding as if I was watching a person actually possessed.
6
The Devil's Chair 2006,  Unrated)
The Devil's Chair
For a horror film, this is a four because of the split genre format and genre commentary in the main character's narrating voice-over, as well as the demon creature and related effects. The sets are interestingly bare and bleak, and the actors know how to overact on purpose. The gore is pretty great and the practical effects are fun, and I can also tolerate the bits of CG effects.

The main reason I like this movie so much is that I would have written this script from the synopsis the same way that is done here. The framing technique gave away the ending to me, but I think that's because I was thinking about how I would do it vs. what would be the worst way to do it. The great thing is...they do it the worst way (the plot) and then switch it into the cleverer mode at the necessary points, leaving a stunner of an ending. The camera work, which is mostly brilliant save a few handheld scenes, matches which version of the story is at work, especially at the ending where the camera is most responsible for the creep-em-out factor.

A nice break from the slew of modern B movies with a modern B movie that seeks to subtly satirize itself and its genre.

"So Fucked Up" highlight: final reel
7
Stuck 2007,  R)
Stuck
After a brilliant montage of nursing home living set to thudding rap music, this film's story begins outrageously bleak and desperate, and certainly doesn't improve with each passing sequence.

Stephen Rea plays Tom, a man who in one day has lost his apartment, been lost in the paper shuffle at unemployment, and now faces his first night as a homeless person.

Mena Suvari plays Brandi, nursing attendant to the elderly by day and party girl by night. She too has a great day cleaning an incontinent Alzheimer's patient (and it is ALL the way graphic) just before she finds out that she's gonna have to pull another Saturday to help secure a promotion.

Brandi just wants to party and Tom just wants to find somewhere to stay. After the club, Brandi is headed home and Tom, recently ejected from a nearby park and pushing his squeaky new - and fleeting- badge of homelessness, is seeking shelter for the night when Brandi provides her windshield for Tom to lodge in.

I can remember when this happened - and actually, watching this film - where Brandi is driving around and there are no other cars to be seen - the events seem incredulous and beyond believability for fiction. But all the while the panging reality is that this actually happened and probably looked just as surreal and improbable as it is depicted.

Upon arriving home, Brandi indulges in a night of explicit one on one partying with her boyfriend. In the morning, homegirl calls a cab to pick her up for work the next morning and !!!HOLY SHIT!!! John Dunsworth of Trailer Park Boys Mr. Lahey infamy is the cabbie!!! (If you don't know the TPB, well... get all the episodes now! I literally yelled with delight when I saw 'Mr. Lahey' in this serious flick, but back to the story) Meanwhile, Tom is still STUCK in the windshield of Brandi's car, in her garage, and he is conscious but obviously injured beyond capability of major movement.

The film stays pretty firm to the real timeline at the outset (visit http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,90498,00.html for the real life case timeline) and Gordon even timestamps events. After the big incident, the movie strays far from reality for dramatic effect especially in terms of how long the victim remains conscious and what he is able to do to cry for help.

[[That concludes the minibits of spoilage]] and there is plenty more astounding developments as the story takes a turn towards (extreme) dark comedy.

It is fantastic to see Stuart Gordon, who has such a schlocky history beginning with Re-Animator, doing some realistic and truly intelligent work in the first half of the film. I saw much development in his Masters of Horror episodes (Dreams in the Witch House and The Black Cat) that I started to really respect him as a director, but I never expected this astounding level of skill. I'll certainly have to check out his other recent not-totally-horror forays King of the Ants and Edmond (written by David Mamet). Of course because this is Gordon all the red stuff is done just right and the sound mix fits the amount of pain and will cause as much (or for me more) flinching than the gory visuals.

Most fucked up highlight: Brandi and ALL her actions
8
The Cottage 2008,  R)
The Cottage
What starts out as a dark comedy about a badly planned kidnapping takes a turn into horror satire territory halfway in. Though the monster/killer that eventually shows up is nothing more than a Hills Have Eyes leftover, the comedic bent of the movie and its absurd kill/gore scenes compensate, making this a flick that horror fans will like and laugh at. This movie doesn't take itself seriously, and that makes it. However, in a world where genre-aware horror is becoming more present, at least one gimmick falls short because it was just recently done in Severance. The refreshing style of blending slash attacks with physical humor doesn't fail to entertain, and the characters are pretty funny by themselves. It's also great to see that Andy Serkis can do much more than climb about bluescreen in a latex mapping suit doing weird voices. For those that like their black humour with a good splash of guts, this is a great pick.
9
Funny Games 2007,  R)
Funny Games
8-21-08: Relieved of half a star after viewing the original. Some of the time edits are needed, and I still prefer this version's final reel to the first. See my Funny Games 97 review for more.
I liked this, especially the last reel. And it's rare that I like being overtly patronized by a pretentious film-maker.

The point of this movie is that if you can sit through, or even take pleasure in it, you are as mentally and spiritually corrupted as the young bourgeois kidnappers. Well I'm totally fucked so I knew I'd have no problem watching the whole thing, I just expected more shock than what I got. Let's face it Haneke - when it comes to extreme drama, you can't play with the big boys like Miike, just do your little bitchy pieces and add some visual flair to create the effect of a real art house or genre-busting movie. But this isn't what it tries to be because it is too overt about it. I admire it for that, but Saw is overt too, so draw again Haneke.
In terms of acting, the body work of the lead couple being tormented is really great. It is hard to make injuries and bonds convincing, especially in such long unflinching shots as this movie is staged. As for the prick kidnappers, I think they're great characters because I truly wanna bash their stupid faces in, so Haneke has got me on that one.
10
The Signal 2007,  R)
The Signal
The premise of The Crazies receives the treatment and production the concept deserves in this new flick. Enough blood to satisfy any media vamps out there, and more than enough story to hold the cynical horror fan tendencies at bay. Some nice little scenes of insanity, and I don't want to give anything away because you should just see it. There are a few things the discerning viewer would gripe about, but compared to its contemporaries, this is a freshly sliced chunk of violent psychological horror that implements enough fun little cinematic techniques to tickle even the staunchest of classical film students. This is a horror film that I can confidently recommend to those outside the horror hound camp; this is a damn good scary movie as well as a thoughtfully structured tale and depiction. See it!
11
Diary of the Dead 2007,  R)
Diary of the Dead
I finally capitulated and downloaded a cam; I can't wait any longer!
Romero is back at the top of his form. This is the true Dead movie for our era, not the uber-derivative studio action trash that Land was. This is biting satire, with necessary biting zombies. One forgets how proper zombies move until you watch some Romero. I love the inside joke comments on the "breaking ankles if they try to run" thing. The effects look amazing and they are memorable, unlike "Land". I can't tell definitively how high the cinematography level is here because I did resort to watching a cam, but if the story and acting are any indicator, this is a new benchmark in horror films.
It's so rare that a film not only fulfills the hype I have for it, but exceeds the excellence I expected. Romero is better off running his own productions, and this movie should show fans and him alike that it is the only way to go with the stories he wants to tell. Dawn was consumerism, and Diary is its media equivalent. Huge achievement.
12
Inside (À l'intérieur) 2007,  R)
Inside (À l'intérieur)
Must-see horror. Best to go into this knowing nothing. A new classic, with some of the most gripping gore to splatter the screen in decades. This is one of those movies where I feel the only substantial thing I have to say is, "Why haven't you seen this yet?"
After a second screening, I've noticed some cool details: the address of the house is 666, the film uses fade wipes not to indicate passage of much time but to indicate a shift in perspective (except for once towards the very end), the first time the killer is in the house her shadow appears pregnant. As I recall from the first screening, the house feels incredibly womb-like and I still can't exactly decipher how the director does this other than pure pacing, tension, some of the soundtrack, and the story itself. The sound is brilliant and is responsible for making the kills seem so immediate and vicious. The whole final scene, but especially that final creepy shot is excruciatingly horrifying to the extent that it almost makes me want to quit the horror genre. Few films have delivered such genuine and unforgettable scares. I was left genuinely frightened and creeped out at the conclusion, feeling that same residual horror that The Exorcist leaves stained upon your brain. I'm ratcheting this up to five stars.
"So Fucked Up" highlight: supposedly dead and eyeless policeman rises and fights back
13
13 game sayawng (13: Game of Death) (13 Beloved) 2008,  Unrated)
13 game sayawng (13: Game of Death) (13 Beloved)
This is a well executed movie, and I would have given it a 4 if the dubs weren't so awful (the choice to dub screams and gasps is especially detrimental to the film). However, the story isn't compelling enough for me to seek out an original language subbed version, which is the only version you should be looking for (hard to find since Dimension Extreme re-released this stateside). Not a horror, but bloodier than your conventional thriller, this film fits nicely in the extreme category.
This movie clearly questions moral codes, and is a decent "game" movie that Saw-lovin tweens should watch to discover how this genre should be done. Great production design and standout editing.

Most "fucked up" highlights: the clothesline; saving the old man from the well.
14
La Terza Madre (Mother of Tears: The Third Mother) 2007,  R)
La Terza Madre (Mother of Tears: The Third Mother)
NOTE: please read my Suspiria review if what I say here inflames you. On second screening, I GOT the genius of Suspiria, but out of respect to my former self (and other viewers) who was able to view the film as "pretentious" and to also make my point about what modern horror should be, I leave those defaming comments on Suspiria intact.

The murder ataboutaround 10minutes in is AMAZING. Goretastic like one craves and with a great use of guts. And they just keep getting gorier and more creative. From Udo Kier's priest character to the medium's girlfriend, this is full of crazy kills.

And the antagonists - the demonic forces, followers, and possessed people are just damn scary with a cool edge. From the ancient language speaking ravers to a fully fleshed pointy eared demon, the design is well done and the result is some very unique characters. The monkey is probably the coolest though.

The acting is over the top melodramatic to say the least, but that didn't matter much to me when the version I'm watching has French audio and English subtitles. People complain that the story moves around too much, thus lack of atmosphere (am I the only one that equates "atmosphere" to a more static setting and slower pace with fewer plot details), but I think that a fast film overloaded with details fits this horror subgenre of end of the world sorcery battle much better. I'm a sucker for Catholic mythology, and unless you're going to do it perfectly as in The Exorcist, the "atmospheric" approach should be avoided.

This is an action thriller horror movie, and not an atmospheric psychological-subjective horror like Susperia. I haven't seen Inferno yet, and I didn't really see what was so damn great about Suspiria on my first two views, so now I'm going to go back and see that again and Inferno the first time because I really like the story. As a horror movie, this has no "atmosphere" because it has a fast pace instead. But fuck atmosphere; that's not what modern horror needs. This is what modern horror needs - absurd kills and insane amounts of violence and a heavily loaded plot. Not some minimalistic over-lit underwritten character piece with not nearly enough blood like Suspiria. This movie piles it on, and I like it like that. Suspiria is slow and overimportant, read too pretentious for its own good; this is fast and rude, read made for the blood-addicted ADD generation. I prefer the latter style for this millennium and leave the former style to actual masters of it like David Lynch.

My only complaint is that the ending isn't so much a showdown as it is a letdown. I expected a full on witch fight or at least a more hyped scene, and instead the main character just gets lucky without having to struggle for it.
15
Mirrors 2008,  R)
Mirrors
I regret NOT going to see this at the movies, that the reviews got to me, because this is actually damn good.

Remakes are never a good idea, but Aja and Levasseur prove again that if a studio insists on doing it, HIRE AJA. The diamond duo of modern gore showed that they could handle an era remake with "The Hills Have Eyes" and here they prove that they are also suited to adapting new Asian wave.

Keifer Sutherland is the weak point of the film, often lapsing into Jack Bauer mode and overacting. He sort of goes mental with the gun brandishing and frequent shooting (no wonder his character was kicked from the police force) to the extent that it does become silly (especially shooting the mirrors in the front yard).

DP Maxime Alexandre deserves a medal for his work here, as we have some dead-on shots into these mirrors and as Alexandre commented, "When you receive a script called 'Mirrors', it's a cinematographer's nightmare". The art direction is astounding and the department store is beautifully decayed.

There is undoubtedly a constant sense of tension created by this movie, and though I didn't fall for any of the jumpscares, I thought they were handled very well in that they weren't made over-obvious by the score. I found myself constantly checking the screen for reflective surfaces that could be potential antagonists, and on that level, the movie is extremely successful at giving inanimate objects intimidating and creepy qualities.

The final sequence is particularly astounding and I thought the SPOILER demonic nun WAS scary and such an awesome makeup job. SPOILER END

The two biggest gore scenes were a bit ruined by putting them on the internet for advertisement, as the surprise was removed. So if you haven't yet seen the "red band" trailers (or any trailer), DON'T and I believe you will enjoy this film more.

SO much better than mainstream critics AND horror fans have labeled it. Aja and Levasseur aren't breaking new ground here, like they did with Haute Tension, but they ARE making great horror, which is astoundingly rare these days for a major studio release.
16
Frontière(s) (Frontier(s)) 2007,  NC-17)
Frontière(s) (Frontier(s))
Just another "we went down the wrong road and shacked up with a family of cannibalistic serial killers" movie. It's not a poorly done movie, it's just not anything substantially great. If you like the Wolf Creek, Turistas, or Hostel treatments of this subject matter, then you should like this. There aren't any memorable scares, some decent cinematography but the images do not amount to a consistent piece like another new French horror film, A L'Interieur or the watershed work of Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension). The little bit of saving grace in this movie is the Gothic horror aesthetic of a demented family hiding secrets that kicks in for the last thirty minutes with the revelation (SPOILER) that the "people' in the mines are the deformed offspring of the daughters' that the father wanted killed, but instead were hidden from him within the mines.
For the script my biggest complaint is that the fanatical Nazi patriarch speaks French instead of mixing more German and raising his children to speak German, as he has given them proper German names. He does throw a bit of German here and there, and even a little English, but not enough.

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